fbpx Donors to Adams’ 2025 Campaign Say They Were Secretly Reimbursed Thousands of Dollars - Documented

Donors to Adams’ 2025 Campaign Say They Were Secretly Reimbursed Thousands of Dollars

An investigation by THE CITY, Documented and The Guardian US finds evidence of new instances of an illegal practice at the center of law enforcement probes of the mayor’s political contributions

Mayor Eric Adams and senior administration officials hold an in-person media availability at City Hall on October 31, 2023. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Three contributors to Mayor Eric Adams’ 2025 re-election campaign recounted in interviews in the past month how they — and in two cases their spouses — were reimbursed for a total of more than $10,000 in donations by hotel and construction executives in violation of state law.

The interviews came during a joint investigation by THE CITY, Documented, and The Guardian US into the presence in the mayor’s current campaign of illegal “straw” donations — contributions paid for by undisclosed sources in a way that masks their identity. Suspicions of such donations spurred the indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney of a fundraising group involved in Adams’ 2021 race, which has led to two guilty pleas, and are part of an ongoing federal investigation into whether they’ve been used to veil illegal donations from the Turkish government.

A representative of the mayor’s campaign has decried the use of straw donations generally and said that if any were made to Adams 2025, they had eluded a vetting procedure designed to flag illegal gifts. 

Three of the five reimbursements were linked to the owners of a hotel in Fresh Meadows, Queens, where the mayor’s director of Asian Affairs, Winnie Greco, lived for a number of months in late 2022 and the early part of 2023 — even as the site was operating under a city government subcontract as a shelter for formerly incarcerated individuals.

City Hall spokesperson Charles Lutvak said Greco stayed at the hotel “for parts of late 2022 and 2023, as she recovered from a medical procedure” and that she paid for the room out of her own pocket. He didn’t address how much she paid or why, out of all the alternatives, she recuperated at a shelter funded by city dollars.   

Kevin Tung, an attorney who said he represented the hotel owners, wrote in an email that she had paid for her stay “at the standard rate with her own funds.” 

Top Findings:

  • Three donors to Mayor Eric Adams’ 2025 re-election campaign said they or their spouses were reimbursed for five individual donations made in their names. One donor later retracted her statement. These reimbursements appear to be “straw donations,” an illegal campaign fundraising tactic design to mask the identity of the donor so they can contribute to a campaign beyond the legal limit.
  • Three reimbursements were linked to the owners of a hotel in Fresh Meadows, Queens, where the mayor’s director of Asian Affairs, Winnie Greco, lived for a number of months in late 2022 into early 2023. During that time, the site was operating under a city government subcontract as a shelter for formerly incarcerated individuals. City Hall said Greco paid for her stay with her own money. Greco is the target of an ongoing probe by the city’s Department of Investigation about allegations she used her position in the Adams’ administration for personal gain.
  • The campaign donors each said they were paid back in cash or by check, for contributions of $2,000 or $2,098 and were made last year. The interviews with the three Adams donors showed them to be seemingly unfamiliar with the rules governing donations.

Greco, who lives in The Bronx, didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment.

She is the target of an ongoing probe by the city’s Department of Investigation following reporting by THE CITY in which two people alleged she used her position in the Adams’ administration for personal gain.

The interviews with the three Adams donors took place in person at their homes and showed them to be seemingly unfamiliar with the rules governing donations. They each said they were paid back, in cash or by check, for contributions made last year of either $2,000 or $2,098.

An architect assistant from Long Island said that she and her husband were reimbursed by one of the owners of the Fresh Meadows hotel, Xiaozhuang Ge, for the $2,000 donations each made to Adams. A nurse from Bayside, Queens, said that a woman named Lan Mei, a relative and business associate of Ge’s wife, Weihong Hu, requested that his family donate $2,000 to Adams’ campaign and then reimbursed them in cash. 

Ge and Hu own another hotel in Long Island City, which like the one in Fresh Meadows, receives millions of dollars through a shelter subcontract from the city. Hu is also listed as the managing member of LLCs behind two hotel development projects in midtown Manhattan — one of which has faced significant bureaucratic obstacles because of special zoning regulations in the Garment District. 

Another Adams donor, Sunny Yau, an employee for a heating and air conditioning company in The Bronx, said that he and his wife were reimbursed by his “boss” for contributions of $2,098 they each made last May. The employee declined to name his boss, but state records list the CEO of the small firm, SB HVAC Services Corp., as a Queens businesswoman named Hung Yau, who also donated to Adams. It is unclear whether or how the Yaus are related, but anti-straw donor regulations prohibit relatives from reimbursing donors. 

Less than six months after the employees made the donations, SB HVAC Services Corp. and another HVAC company led by Hung Yau enrolled in New York City’s government contract portal — the first step toward applying for business with the city. 

The revelations follow numerous other instances where THE CITY and Documented have uncovered strong evidence of straw donations to Adams, beyond those investigated by the Manhattan DA and federal prosecutors. 

Such schemes, which have surfaced in several political campaigns over the years, allow gifts to come in from donors, including foreign nationals, who are barred by law from contributing to U.S. political campaigns. They also permit donors who have reached their contribution limit — currently $2,100 from an individual in a mayoral race — to try to gain political clout by flooding dollar-hungry campaigns with money disguised as coming from their friends, associates and business colleagues. 

When made by New York City residents, straw donations also trigger publicly financed matching funds of as much as $8 for every dollar of the first $250 contributed. The Adams campaign submitted three of the five donations identified in the reporters’ interviews for matching funds with the potential to yield an additional $6,000. 

Vito Pitta, an attorney for the Adams re-election campaign, said, “If, in fact, these contributors knowingly participated in a scheme to reimburse contributions, then they lied to us and violated the rules that the campaign clearly explains to all donors” adding, “No one on the campaign has ever or would ever participate in or condone such behavior.”

He also asserted, that, “unfortunately, it is fairly common for contributors to engage in straw donor actions without a campaign’s knowledge, and very difficult for a campaign that receives thousands of contributions to weed out every bad actor, especially when they legally attest to following the rules.”

Campaign finance experts took issue with some of Pita’s points.  

In an interview, Timothy Hunter, a spokesperson for the city’s Campaign Finance Board, said that “Straw donor activity is rare.” 

“It is uncommon for campaigns to reach out to the Campaign Finance Board reporting suspected straw donor activity,” he added. “If they do, we work with them to ensure the campaign remains compliant while the activity is investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Saurav Ghosh, director of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center’s federal finance reform program, said the attorney’s answers sounded like a “cop out.”

Ghosh, a former Federal Election Commision enforcement attorney, pointed out that campaign teams, like journalists and law enforcement officials, can mine contribution data to identify suspicious contributions and then reach out to donors to ask whether they were being reimbursed. 

“It seems like they’ve gone the opposite way, saying, ‘There’s nothing we can do here,’” he said.

‘She Gave Me the Cash’

The alleged straw donations came during a six-week fundraising blitz for Adams that peaked last June, just before his campaign was required to file a mid-year fundraising report that Adams’ team has often used to tout his support and financial might. 

They also came a few weeks before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced his indictments of six Adams supporters who he alleged conspired to send the 2021 campaign straw donations. Two defendants who run a construction company subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The biggest single-day haul for that period came on June 8, the date of a fundraiser at the Hakka Cuisine restaurant in Chinatown, when 64 donors contributed $108,808, many of them giving $2,098.

Nearly a dozen donors to that fundraiser had connections to the Broadway East Group, LLC, which just weeks later was selected by the Adams administration to operate a Chinatown mall on city property, a link previously revealed by Documented. 

Adams and Greco both attended the event. 

Another top daily haul for that period — $88,246 — came on June 9, when dozens of Adams supporters, many of them business associates of Ge and Hu, gathered to meet the mayor at a 92-story glass skyscraper in Hudson Yards where the hotel operators own an apartment.

The Adams campaign reported receiving more than a dozen checks for $2,000 apiece that day, including one from Eddie Fung, a nurse from Bayside, Queens. 

After Fung and his wife, Shangyi Liu, opened their door to reporters on a cold January night, they said they had heard about a fundraiser but didn’t attend. According to the couple, Fung donated to the Adams campaign as a favor for a family friend. Neither of them, they said, actually supports the mayor, who they described as having done a poor job on public safety.

“The truth is we donated because my friend asked me to,” said Liu. “She told me to write a check, I did her a favor, and then she gave me the cash.”

According to Liu, that friend, the businesswoman Lan Mei, asked her to make the donation. Liu said Mei “knows” the mayor and referenced a party at an apartment building “around Hudson Yards,” but didn’t know what stimulated her friend’s interest. 

“I know they have some family business, that’s all I know,” said Liu, who is not registered to vote. “We’re not really political.”

When making a contribution by check to a local New York City political campaign, donors must sign a form affirming that they understand that state law prohibits reimbursements for donations. The Adams 2025 campaign submitted a form to the New York City Campaign Finance Board that contains a signature purportedly from Fung.

But when reporters obtained the form through a public records request and presented it to Fung in a second interview, the nurse and his wife said that while he signed the contribution check, he had never been presented with a contribution form and that the signature on it was not his. 

“It doesn’t look like my handwriting,” he said. “The whole signature, it looks similar, but it’s not mine.”

Fung and Liu said that going forward they will never accept reimbursement for a campaign donation.

A digital flyer for a fundraising event connected to alleged straw donations.

“To me, this just tells me, ‘Next time don’t do this,’” said Fung.

Mei, interviewed at the door of her large brick home in Great Neck, L.I., denied reimbursing anyone in cash for a $2,000 donation to the mayor’s campaign last year.

“I didn’t do it. I don’t know why they’re saying that,” she said.

Mei didn’t respond to a follow-up knock on the door or to a letter taped to it by a reporter that detailed the claims made by Fung and Liu.

City vendor records list Mei as CEO of the firm Meiqiao LLC, which shares an address with the Wyndham Garden hotel owned by Ge and Hu, in Fresh Meadows, Queens, where Greco had lived. Hu is listed as the LLC’s owner in state court documents. 

As burgeoning developers and hotel operators, Ge and Hu have had numerous interactions with city agencies vital to their business interests, which they manage alone or jointly through a dozen LLCs linked by common addresses.

Their Fresh Meadows hotel served as a shelter for formerly incarcerated individuals who were released during the COVID pandemic under the prior mayor administration of Bill de Blasio. Its involvement came through a $3 million, six-month city subcontract with the nonprofit group Exodus Transitional Community that was extended twice under the Adams administration. 

When that program sunset in December 2022, the Adams administration revamped the services offered to former inmates and hired a new provider, Housing Works, through which the city extended its payments to the Queens hotel owners. 

The couple’s Long Island City hotel has served as a migrant shelter since last year, workers there told THE CITY on Wednesday. The Department of Social Services did not respond to questions by late Wednesday about how much the city is paying for use of the former Howard Johnson hotel’s 152 rooms. Lutvak, the mayoral spokesperson, noted that the initial government contracts at the two Queens hotels preceded the current administration.

Wyndham Garden Hotel, Fresh Meadows, Queens. Photo courtesy of THE CITY

In Manhattan, an LLC where Hu is a managing member is developing a 25-story hotel that’s under construction on West 35th Street. The project hit a major snag in March 2021 when the Department of Buildings notified Hu that the agency was planning to revoke its main job site permit and issue a stop work order because of non-compliance with a half-dozen zoning and administrative codes. The stop work order went into effect the following month, and wasn’t lifted until Nov. 18, 2022, toward the end of Adams’ first year as mayor.

A Department of Buildings spokesperson said the stop work order was lifted after the zoning and administrative code issues were resolved.

The Hotel Architect

In a January interview at her house on Long Island, Sui Mok, the architect assistant who donated to Adams, said that she and her husband, Chang Tan, each donated $2,000 to Adams’ reelection campaign after being asked to do so by Hu’s husband, Ge, whom they described as a client. DOB records show Tan’s firm, Tan Architects, has done work at Ge’s and Hu’s hotels. 

Mok said that Ge paid her and her husband back. When asked whether they were reimbursed in cash, she said it was by “check.”

“Actually, my client … [he] paid for it,” she said, standing behind the glass door of her split-level brick house in Albertson. 

In a subsequent conversation that Mok insisted be conducted by text message, she modified her story. 

She wrote: “Actually the donation that we gave is part of our design fees that Mr. Ge supposed to pay us and we used that for the donation. I forgot to tell you in detail.”

Asked to clarify, she added, “Mr. Ge paid us $4,000 for the design service that we did for him and we used the money for donation.”

A reporter for THE CITY asked Mok if she could provide any records of the design work or a copy of Ge’s check. She responded: “Sorry this is Confidential.”

Without these records, it’s impossible to begin to verify Mok’s new account. It is legal for an employee or contractor to take a payment for services and decide to contribute some portion of it to a campaign, but not if the payment is a cover for a contribution dictated by the person who provided the payment for services.

Ghosh, of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said that donors changing their stories about contributions “definitely happens,” adding, “It’s not a credible explanation when two days before they said something different.”

Hu and Ge weren’t at home on a recent weeknight when reporters visited their Hudson Yards apartment building, and didn’t respond to a detailed letter left with the doorman there asking about Mok’s accounts. But their lawyer, Kevin Tung, disputed Mok’s initial claims that she and her husband had been reimbursed.

“Our client’s account department never found any check payable to the architect for the amount of $4,000 for reimbursement of donation,” Tung wrote in an email. “Any payment made by our client to the architect Tan was for payment for his professional service.”

The June 9 event in their Hudson Yards building took place in a meeting room. It featured buffets and an appearance by Adams, attracting about 30 people, one attendee said in an interview. 

Speaking of the mayor, she said, “He looks like a nice guy and we took photos with him.” She and several other attendees said they donated $2,000 each without receiving reimbursement.

A flier for the June 9 event lists Brianna Suggs, the chief fundraiser for Adams’ 2021 campaign and a top fundraiser early into his re-election effort, as a contact for donors who wished to pay by check. 

Five months afterward, the FBI raided Suggs’ Brooklyn home as part of its ongoing federal probe into the Adams campaign finances. Neither she nor Adams have been accused of wrongdoing in that investigation.

‘I’m Not a Political Person’

The other instances of allegedly reimbursed donations identified through reporter interviews came to the Adams’ campaign last May 21.

That day, four people listed in campaign finance records as managers for the Bronx-based heating and air conditioning company SB HVAC Services Corp attempted to donate more than $14,500 to Adams via credit card.

But according to one of the four, at least two of those contributions were paid back to them.

Sunny Yau, the SB HVAC Services Corp employee, said that his “boss” asked him and his wife, Nora, to each donate $2,098 to Adams, then reimbursed them later that week. 

Campaign finance records list Sunny Yau as having contributed $4,196 via credit card, half of which was later returned by the campaign for exceeding campaign contribution limits. He said he was only aware of one donation in his name, and at one point indicated that he thought the payment had been made via check.

Standing behind the door of his house in Fresh Meadows, Sunny said he did not ask his boss why they were making the donations and declined to identify who his boss was.

“Actually, I’m not a political person,” said Sunny, whose name does not appear in the last six years of New York voter records. 

Asked if he would ever donate to Adams without being reimbursed, Sunny chuckled and said, “Maybe.”

Hung Yau, the firm’s listed owner, tried to make three $2,098 donations to Adams on the same day as Sunny’s, and had two returned for exceeding the limit. Reporters tried to reach her at her home and business and by phone, but she declined to be interviewed. 

“About this, I don’t need to talk about it. Bye!” she said on one brief phone call before hanging up.

April Xu

April Xu is an award-winning bilingual journalist with over 9 years of experience covering the Chinese community in New York City.


Yoav Gonen, THE CITY

Yoav is a senior reporter for THE CITY, where he covers NYC government, politics and the police department.

George Joseph, The Guardian US

George Joseph is an investigative reporter for The Guardian US. He was previously a senior reporter for THE CITY with a focus on criminal justice and courts.


Bianca Pallaro, THE CITY

Bianca is a senior data reporter for THE CITY, responsible for conceiving and carrying out focused, in-depth data investigations that unearth stories that would not be possible using other methods.

Haidee Chu, THE CITY

Haidee is THE CITY’s Queens reporter, where she covers the latest news out of the city’s largest borough.



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